Having just turned 30 this year, comedian, actress, producer, director, and now author Kelsey Darragh has racked up some impressive achievements, despite being a self-proclaimed “proud three-time college dropout.” After making a name for herself as a video producer and development partner at BuzzFeed Motion Pictures and helping build one of Facebook’s most popular comedy pages, the female-driven SOML, Darragh also has gained notoriety by hosting her own web series, Ladies’ Room.
Currently, the out bisexual entertainer keeps herself busy making appearances across multiple platforms, including the streaming show Dating #NoFilter, her hilariously relatable podcast Confidently Insecure, and her YouTube channel (@KelseyDarragh) — where she candidly discusses everything from abusive relationships to her present healthy open relationship with boyfriend DJ Jared Lucas, to her struggles with chronic pain and sobriety (trigger warnings included).
Darragh’s career trajectory proves that you don’t need a degree to follow your dreams — particularly in the arts. Although Darragh says she was initially “determined that I needed a degree to be respected,” she bounced between colleges in Florida (where she grew up), New York, and California. “I dropped out after one of my YouTube videos went viral,” she recalls. “I said, ‘Oh, wait! College is kind of a sham — I just need to do my career.’ Because I was very sure of what I wanted to do.”
So why, with a booming career in entertainment, did Darragh decide to write a book about mental health?
“The only thing crazier than me thinking I’d become an author was me quitting alcohol,” she says of writing her new book, Don’t F*cking Panic, and now being one year sober. “In a million years, I would have never imagined it. And I definitely talk about this in the book too, of just how our society glorifies substance use and alcoholism…. How you’re the cool girl and you can drink so much…but we never talk about the morning after.”
In addition to dealing with anxiety and depression for half her life, Darragh suffers from a rare nerve condition called trigeminal neuralgia, which causes nearly constant facial pain, and she says she used alcohol to self-medicate all of those things. With the book, Darragh says she wanted to address rarely discussed realities like “hangover anxiety and shame and self-blame…. I was a great alcoholic. I was. But my panic attacks were the absolute worst during the hangover. It was a double-edged sword — like, how do I socialize without drinking while I have to pay the price? It was just a vicious cycle that I was living.”
Her primary goal with Don’t F*cking Panic, however, was to create a tangible tool for folks to lean on when they are experiencing mental health issues themselves. One must admit that the title alone is a charmingly disarming reminder to stop what you’re doing and check in on yourself.
“The purpose of it being a workbook is to empower the reader to know that they are the person that can, quote-unquote, fix themselves. And, spoiler alert, the book teaches you that it’s not about fixing anything. It really was important for me to create something that the reader can carry with them, tear up with, cry on, laugh at, share with a friend — it’s not something you read once and you’re done. It’s something you can come to any time you’re struggling.”
Darragh says she’s very excited about her career shift toward mental health, especially during a time “when the entire world is going through a collective trauma together.” She’s already thinking about her next book, which she says will be a deeper dive into her struggles with chronic pain and its connection to mental health.
“Being a woman feels like I’m listened to differently or treated differently,” she says of the difficulties that can come with seeking treatment for any invisible disability. “It has been an incredible balance and struggle and something I’m really passionate about.”